Anthro in the news 10/28/13

A sex counselor in Japan with one of her clients. Photograph: Eric Rechsteiner/Panos Picture, in the The Guardian

• No sex please, for young Japanese

An article in The Guardian describes changing patterns of sex, love, and marriage, or none of the above in urban Japan. The article quotes cultural anthropologist Tomomi Yamaguchi, a Japanese-born assistant professor of anthropology at Montana State University as saying: “Remaining single was once the ultimate personal failure…But more people are finding they prefer it.” Being single by choice is becoming, she believes, “a new reality” in urban Japan. The current flight from marriage may signal a longer term rejection of earlier Japanese norms and gender roles.

• Alan Greenspan may take Social Anthropology 101

In an interview with Alan Greenspan, Financial Times writer Gillian Tett was surprised when Greenspan expressed interest in social anthropology and asked Tett for suggested readings. In shock, Tett comments that Greenspan no longer thinks that classic orthodox economics and mathematical models can explain everything. [Blogger’s note: I am dying to know which readings Tett suggested to Greenspan! David Graeber’s book Debt would be at the top of my list for Greenspan].

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It’s a big  job

The Boston Globe carried an article about Jim Yong Kim’s attempts to overhaul the World Bank. Kim was in Boston Thursday to accept an award from the Harvard School of Public Health. A physician by profession and cofounder of Partners in Health with Paul Farmer and others, Kim is also a medical anthropologist. Although a proponent of the World Bank’s renewed commitment to supporting large hydroelectric dam projects, Kim at the same time expresses concern for the poor:  “What we’ve seen all over the world is that if you don’t pay attention to that bottom 40 percent, you can have fundamental instability in your society…Even in countries that have made so many gains in lifting people out of poverty, the bottom 40 percent were still saying, ‘But wait a minute, we want more.’ ” [Blogger’s note: Studies of large dam construction projects consistently show that they displace thousands, even millions, of people and thus increase the number of people in the “bottom 40 percent.”]

Tanya Luhrmann dumbing down religion?

In an article in The New Republic, Leon Wieseltier its literary editor, argues that, in her recent series of op-eds in The New York Times, Tanya Luhrmann expresses positive views of evangelicism (which he says she “adores”) and is “peddling another intellectual argument for anti-intellectualism, another glorification of emotion in a culture enslaved to emotion.”

What’s in a name: Asylum seeker is preferable

Australia’s The Age published a critique of recent official Australian statements about categories of immigrants, particularly a new delineation between asylum seekers and illegal maritime arrivals: “The conjoining of ‘asylum’ and ‘seeker’ is evocative. Who seeks asylum? A human in danger, distress and despair; someone who is hoping to survive on the lee shore of kindness.”

In contrast, the phrase “illegal maritime arrivals” contains no sense of humanity. Jonathan Rosa, assistant professor of linguistic anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, says such phrasing “is more about signalling one’s political affiliation than about trying to describe immigration.”

• Post-multicultural ethnic branding in Canada

An article in The Vancouver Sun notes that one in five Canadians are immigrants and nearly as many are second-generation citizens. So, it would seem that ethnic marketing would be on the rise. Instead, there seems to be growing emphasis on a “post-multicultural” nation.

Design anthropologist Ujwal Arkalgud says brands would do well to leverage Canadiana with high profile examples including Molson Canadian beer, Tim Hortons coffee, Hudson’s Bay department stores, and Roots apparel, all of which have effectively used national identity to sell products.

“Looking at audiences based on their ethnicity is a brutal, brutal practice,” said Arkalgud, director of strategy at Sonic Boom, a strategic marketing communications firm in Toronto. “It makes the assumption that just because somebody has immigrated, or has a certain background, they think a certain way; the reality is that our behaviours are guided by who we are and our own beliefs and values.”

What’s in a (sports team) name?

The debate goes on about the name of Washington, D.C.’s National Football League team, the Redskins, and its inherent, insulting racism. An article in Newsday provides commentary from Duke University cultural anthropology professor, Orin Starn:  “…the word ‘Redskins…is freighted in a way that Chiefs, Indians and Braves is not. And this is not a tribe name. Historically, ‘Redskins’ really was the n-word in talking about Native Americans.”

Diamond in the rough

In an interview for Gulf News with Jared Diamond, Gillian Tett learned that the UCLA geographer plans to analyze in his next book how modern civilizations, including Japan and Britain, “manage” the process of change and crisis. He will also address crises that Washington, D.C., and the U.S. government periodically face.

The interview addressed Diamond’s uncomfortable relationship with anthropologists. Tett writes: “As I chat with Diamond…I am also aware that a certain irony hangs over his work. In some senses his tomes are a powerful advertisement for anthropology — he cites no fewer than 39 anthropology studies in his latest book, which now appears on some undergraduate courses.”

Diamond responds: “Whenever I give a public lecture I get people coming up and saying that they went into anthropology because of my books.” Tett notes that groups such as the American Anthropological Association have staged critical debates on his work, and Diamond adds that “…they didn’t even ask me to attend…”

Take that anthro degree and…

…become a certified hypnotist. Linda Donalds is a National Guild of Hypnotists-certified hypnotist, and the owner of New Horizons in Hypnosis in Lunenburg, Massachusetts. Her interest in hypnotism began in her senior year of high school where she saw a performance by a stage hypnotist. Donalds graduated from Rutgers University with a major in anthropology and a minor in archaeology and Native American studies. She was working in the computer networking industry when she saw that an introductory hypnosis course was being offered through a community education program.

Read more…

…become an organic farmer. Micha Ide has a degree in anthropology. She and her husband have work experience in the California corporate world. Both are now running an organic farm. They are part of the greenhorn movement, a growing trend of young urban professionals who leave the corporate ladder for life on the land. They have teamed up with an experienced local farmer to run Chinook Farms, an organic farm and CSA, or community-supported agriculture program, with a mission to help bring people closer to their local farm roots.

Read more…

…be assistant secretary to the top monk of Thailand, His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara. “I respected him not just as my mentor, but he was also like my father,” said Phra Shakyawongwisut, who was in the service of His Holiness since 1975. Phra Shakyawongwisut, who holds a doctorate in anthropology, considers himself fortunate to have had the Supreme Patriarch as his mentor. “He had analysed Dharma and pointed out that even after decades of reading the Tripitaka, the book of Buddhism still offered new knowledge.” The Supreme Patriarch passed away peacefully on Thursday, at the age of 100.

Read more…

Gold rush in India: In your dreams

Armed police have been deployed to protect four ancient temples in the city of Lucknow, northern India, from treasure hunters after a Hindu holy man revealed he had discovered two thousand tons of buried gold beneath one of them in a dream. Conservationists say his “vision” sparked a “gold rush” which is now threatening a number of valuable archeological sites. Syed Jamal Hasan, the Archeological Survey of India’s director of excavation, told the Telegraph that large crowds had gathered at four temple sites following the Swami’s visions and called on local people to treat his claims with skepticism:

“We don’t believe in any dream and we’re not searching for gold. Many babas and swamis have this view and there are big crowds, hundreds and thousands of people surrounding the [first] site. Our police are there and it is under control…“Bad elements are moving here and there trying to find wealth and jewellery.” [Blogger’s note: a YouTube interview with Syed Jamal Hasan in Hindi is here].

Under the car park: 11th century Viking parliament

BBC News and other sources confirm the discovery of a meeting place of a medieval Norse parliament, called a “thing” (or “ding”) Evidence of the mound was uncovered during excavations of Dingwall’s Cromartie Memorial car park. When it was constructed in the 11th century, the thing was on a human-made islet in the estuary of the Peffery. Archaeologists and historians believe it was built on the instructions of Thorfinn the Mighty.

Drought and the creation of the biblical kingdom of Israel

The New York Times reported on a new study that says a devastating climate crisis let the collapse of pre-Biblical civilization in the Levant and to the rise of the biblical kingdom of Israel. The study has been published in Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University. Experts have long pondered the cause of the crisis that led to the collapse of civilization in the Late Bronze Age. They now believe that by studying grains of fossilized pollen they have uncovered the cause. Unlike studies examining longer-term processes that may require a pollen analysis of strata 500 years apart, this pollen count was done at intervals of 40 years — the highest resolution yet in this region, said Israel Finkelstein, a professor in the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University.

Menopause and human evolution

An article in The Huffington Post overviews evolutionary views of menopause presented in a study co-authored by biological anthropology professor Linda M. Fedigan of the University of Calgary. Fedigan and her colleagues studied the female life cycle of baboons and blue monkeys in Kenya, chimpanzees in Tanzania, gorillas in Rwanda, sifakas in Madagascar, and muriqui monkeys in Brazil. They compared their findings with that of human hunter-gatherers and found that human females are the only ones to go through menopause. Their explanation has to do with the fact that the human female life cycle is so much longer than that of closely related primates. [Blogger’s note: research of cultural anthropologists in many cultures around the world documents that distress during aging such as night sweats are not universally experienced by women].

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